I thought these nine years of being a fiercely independent working professional had made me tough. Tough enough to sternly deal with lewd remarks and wolf whistles from strangers.I was wrong. Instead, over the years, I had unconsciously shut myself to all forms of harassment. I had not only stopped reacting to vulgar comments, but started ignoring them altogether. And that is perhaps why last month, I took some time to realise that the four drunk men in the car were talking about me.
It was my dad’s birthday, and I had decided not to wait for the 9.30pm cab back home. I live at Indirapuram in Ghaziabad. On days I’m not taking the office cab, I get off at the Vaishali Metro station. From there, I either take a cycle-rickshaw or share an auto through the poorly-lit, almost deserted stretch to home.
Since I’ve been chased by drunk bikers on this stretch, I was more than relieved when my cousins offered to pick me up at the Akshardham Metro station.
Alone in a crowd
At 8.15pm, Akshardham Metro station in east Delhi is very busy. The streets are well-lit, so I decided to wait for my cousins outside the station. I chose a busy spot.
Within minutes, a small car stopped about two feet away to drop off a young man. He walked away, but the car didn’t move. The rest of the four men, who seemed to be in their 20s, appeared to be arguing. Their voices were loud enough for me to hear.
“Looks sexy,” said one. “What’s the harm; there’s space, she will easily fit inside,” said another. “No yaar, it’s risky. What if the cops follow us?” cautioned one. “Nothing will happen. It will be fun. What say, should we pull her inside?” said another.
Frozen with fear I froze. Were they talking about pulling me into the car? There was no other woman around. I went numb with fear. I didn’t do anything. I should have done: Run back inside the Metro station, pulled out my phone and called 100 or a friend or the office, shouted out loud, taken down the number of the car…
I just stood glued to the spot.
Fortunately, just then my cousins arrived and I ran to them. I asked them to speed away. I didn’t even look back till the station was out of sight. My cousins were shocked that I hadn’t even asked them to take down the number of the car. For them, I was this outspoken, fearless journalist who had frozen in terror at the first sign of a threat.
More than a month has passed, but I’m angry with myself. What aggravates me more is the thought that I got lucky, but these men may have waited for another victim. Just like another group of men did at the Munirka bus stop in south Delhi from where the 23-year-old gang rape victim was picked up.